2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited Review - SUV VEHICLE

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited Review

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Pros

  • car-like drive
  • fuel efficiency
  • distinctive design

Cons

  • tight rear legroom
  • firm ride on 20 inch rims
  • no hybrid option

Hyundai raised eyebrows when it introduced the Santa Cruz pickup for the 2022 model year. Like the Ford Maverick, this ‘sport adventure vehicle’ is based on a compact crossover SUV platform – in this case, the Tucson, with which it shares much of its forward structure and cabin.

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz pricing

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited rear parked on road2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited rear parked on road
Photo: Graham Heeps

There’s a wide choice for US buyers who get five options – from the basic SE with a 191-hp, 2.5L engine and FWD, to the fully loaded, 281-hp, turbocharged, AWD Limited. The full range:

  • SE (FWD) US$26,650
  • SEL (FWD) US$29,400
  • Night (AWD) US$38,210
  • XRT (AWD) US$39,850
  • Limited (AWD) US$41,070

AWD is a US$1,500 option on the lower-spec FWD models. All prices MSRP.

Canada gets two trim levels of the Santa Cruz – Preferred and Ultimate – both with a turbocharged engine and AWD as standard.

  • Preferred (AWD) C$40,799
  • Ultimate (AWD) C$47,599

Santa Cruz Changes for 2024

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited front grill2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited front grill
Photo: Hyundai

The Santa Cruz is still a relatively new vehicle so the upgrades for this year are minor. Bi-LED projector headlights are now standard across the range, as is steering wheel haptic feedback for driver-assistance systems.

In the US, a new XRT trim replaces the previous SEL Premium. H-Tex leatherette seating is available in Night and XRT grades, while the higher trims feature a 10.25-inch infotainment screen and HVAC upgrades. The wider screen is also part of the Activity Package (US$3,660), which includes a tonneau cover, roof side rails, LED bed lighting, and more.

Meanwhile in Canada, the Trend Package (C$2,800, available with Preferred) now adds rain-sensing wipers and 20in wheels (more on those later), as well as the H-Tex seats, to existing upgrades like Bose audio, adaptive cruise control and power sunroof.

Exterior Styling: Unmistakable Looks

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited trunk bar2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited trunk bar
Photo: Hyundai

The Santa Cruz mid-size pickup is that rare thing nowadays: a car that won’t be mistaken for any other. Its rounded lines are a welcome change from the macho truck norm, and its youthful character is reminiscent of the classic Subaru Brat.

We liked the Easter eggs in the design, like the miniature Santa Cruzes in the wheel-arch cladding and the tailgate step, as well as our test vehicle’s on-trend Hampton Gray paint (C$250 extra in Canada).

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited easter egg2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited easter egg
Photo: Hyundai

Corner steps make access to the 52-inch (132-cm) bed easier, while the handy cubbies within and a roller tonneau on top (standard on Night and up in the US and on both Canadian models) help keep your gear safely stowed.

Interior and Equipment

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited interior front2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited interior front
Photo: Hyundai

If you’re familiar with the Tucson’s interior, then you’ll feel right at home in the Santa Cruz, whose cabin is almost identical to the SUV’s. Hyundai gets the basics right for the driver and passenger – comfort, space, visibility – and our Limited test vehicle wanted for nothing in terms of creature comforts. Note that wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on all Santa Cruzes, regardless of screen size.

2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited interior rear seats2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited interior rear seats
Photo: Hyundai

The infotainment is slick in operation – we know that Hyundai does this stuff well – although you might not be quite so enamoured with the semi-digital HVAC controls if you prefer physical buttons.

One disappointment is the relatively limited rear-seat legroom. There’s a half-inch more than in the Maverick but several inches less than in a Tucson. This makes the Santa Cruz less practical for everyday runs to school or the supermarket, although the rear seats do flip up for cargo. As always, if you don’t need the truck bed, buy a car or SUV with a conventional trunk instead.

Performance: Santa Cruz’s 2.5L Turbo

Santa Cruz 2.5L turbo engineSanta Cruz 2.5L turbo engine
Photo: Hyundai

Our Limited model comes as standard with the 281-hp, 2.5L, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The motor is smooth and more than powerful enough for this size of vehicle, providing a healthy 311lb-ft of torque from only 1,700rpm, so you have plenty of shove when you need it for overtaking. The transmission shifts quickly, including via steering-wheel paddles if the mood takes you.

We returned 9.4L/100km (25mpg) in mostly highway driving in and around Detroit, which is right between the official figures for combined (10.6L/100km, 22mpg) and highway (8.7L/100km, 27mpg) consumption. The efficient Maverick Hybrid will hit 6.4L/100km (37mpg), but the Santa Cruz’s fuel economy is still far better than mid-size trucks like the Tacoma (a 4WD best of 11.9L/100km (20mpg) combined) – food for thought if you only need a truck bed for light and/or city-based use.

Driving Impressions

2024-Hyundai-Santa-Cruz-Limited-rear-off-roading2024-Hyundai-Santa-Cruz-Limited-rear-off-roading
Photo: Hyundai

To all intents and purposes, the Santa Cruz starts, stops, and steers just like a car, or rather, like a compact crossover SUV. Its small size (more than a foot shorter than the smallest Tacoma) makes it easy to use around town.

Michigan’s crumbling road surfaces are an unforgiving test of ride comfort. Unfortunately, the Limited never completely settled on this terrible pavement, not helped, we’re sure, by the flashy 20 inch rims and 245/50 Michelin tires. There was a lot of road noise and not enough compliance over the expansion joints. One caveat is that we didn’t carry a heavy load during our test week so can’t comment on whether the ride might settle down with a weight on board.

On the plus side, Hyundai’s terrific driver-assistance technologies combine to make cruising easier, keeping you plumb in the centre of the lane on the highway without the fussy corrections or irritating pulls on the steering wheel that characterize less well-developed driver-assistance systems.

Takeaway

2024-Hyundai-Santa-Cruz-Limited-driving-front2024-Hyundai-Santa-Cruz-Limited-driving-front
Photo: Hyundai

Small pickups were once ubiquitous, but despite the recent introduction of the Santa Cruz and Maverick, the sector remains underpopulated. That’s a pity, we think, given that today’s growing mid-size and bloated full-size trucks are oversized for many people’s pickup needs. The attractive and accomplished Santa Cruz fills a niche; just be sure to drive it on your local roads before committing to the larger wheels.

Pros

  • car-like drive
  • fuel efficiency
  • distinctive design

Cons

  • tight rear legroom
  • firm ride on 20in rims
  • no hybrid option

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